Living The Quran
From Issue: 980 [Read full issue]
Al-e-Imran (The House of Imran) Sura 3: Verses 42-43
"Behold! The angels said: 'O Mary! Allah has chosen you and purified you, and raised you above all the women of the world. O Mary! Prostrate yourself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.'"
Istifa, the word used in the text for choosing and selecting, in Quranic terminology refers to the selection of someone by Allah for a specific purpose. Allah chose Maryam for the manifestation of one of His great signs, which was also a great trust she was going to bear. Moreover, it was also a great trial. This required that Allah would specially prepare and train her to bear this trust successfully and to cope with any hardships involved. It is this preparation and training that has been referred to here as tahhir for purifying her. The verse also clarifies that her istifa or selection had a special significance. She was specially selected and chosen above all other women of the world. As in the present verse, when the particle ala is used after istifa it also gives a sense of preference or superiority. She was chosen out of all other women for this special purpose. It is a unique honour and she has no rival in this field.
To prepare her for this onerous burden, the heavenly voice advised her: Uqnuti li-rabbiki - worship your Sustainer devoutly. The word qunut means to incline towards Allah out of extreme humility and a sense of subservience. Salah or Prayer is the best expression of this humility and subservience.
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah Ali Imran" - Amin Ahsan Islahi